Top 10 Highlights from Last Week’s Singapore Fintech Festivalby Fintech News Singapore November 8, 2022
The seventh edition of the Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF), one of the world’s largest annual fintech events, kicked off on October 31, 2022 as an in-person event at the Singapore Expo.
This year’s event, themed “Building Resilient Business Models amid Volatility and Change”, saw more than 850 expert speakers, a total of 2,000 organisations and over 250 hours of content across its week-long program. It also featured 450 exhibitors and 25 international pavilions across the exhibition hall.
The conference segment of SFF took place on November 2, 3 and 4, and focused heavily on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), tokenisation, green fintech, sustainability, and data sharing. Singapore policymakers and government officials took the opportunity to disclose their new fintech initiatives, share updates on their ongoing fintech projects, and announce exciting partnerships.
A fresh S$150 million commitment towards the Financial Sector Technology and Innovation scheme
Lawrence Wong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, and Deputy Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), opened the conference segment of SFF 2022 on November 02.
In his opening address, Wong announced that MAS will provide a third tranche of funding for the Financial Sector Technology and Innovation (FSTI) scheme, with a fresh commitment of S$150 million for the next three years.
Launched in 2015, the FSTI scheme provides support for financial institutions looking to establish an innovation center or lab, institution-level projects, and industry-wide technological infrastructure or utility.
Wong said MAS will consolidate several tracks under the FSTI scheme and maintain focus in key areas including artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, regtech and cybersecurity. New focus areas will also be added such as environmental, social and governance (ESG) fintech, and innovation challenges will be rolled out.
MAS will also support the next generation of Centres of Excellence with the development of tools to support emerging domains such as Web 3.0.
Finally, a public consultation was launched by MAS on the same day, focusing on initiatives to eliminate all corporate cheques by 2025. The use of cheques has declined sharply in favour of e-payments, Wong said.
Insurance data added to SGFinDex
Wong also took the opportunity to announce that the Singapore Financial Data Exchange (SGFinDex) will be extended to include insurance policies. This will allow individuals to digitally access and aggregate information on their life, accident and health insurance policies held across different participating insurers.
Introduced in 2020, SGFinDex is a public digital infrastructure that enables individuals to securely access their financial information held across government agencies, banks, insurers, and the central securities depository. There are currently more than 30,000 monthly active users of SGFinDex, with nearly 1.2 million data retrievals.
The inclusion of insurance data will add to existing banking and investment data that individuals are already able to retrieve via SGFinDex.
MOF and MAS launch process to digitalise banker’s guarantees and insurance bonds
Wong formally announced the launch of eGuarantee@Gov, a digital process for businesses and individuals to provide a banker’s guarantee or insurance bond to government agencies within a day.
The initiative allows businesses and individuals to apply for an eGuarantee from over 20 participating financial institutions through their websites or email for direct submission to 17 government agencies. More financial institutions and agencies are scheduled to come onboard eGuarantee@Gov by end 2023.
A collaboration between MAS and the Ministry of Finance (MOF), eGuarantee@Gov will lead to a significant reduction in the time and effort needed to process these guarantees, and ultimately benefiting the individual and business users, Wong said.
Singapore’s five top fintech focuses
On the second day of the conference, Ravi Menon, Managing Director, MAS, delivered a keynote speech that outlined the five key outcomes Singapore wished to achieve through its numerous fintech initiatives: instant remittance, sustainability data, programmable money, atomic settlement and tokenized assets.
The first ambition, instant remittance, intends for cross-border payments to flow seamlessly. This has been done by building linkages across countries’ real-time payment systems and connecting Singapore’s PayNow system with the faster payment systems of other countries.
MAS is also working with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) Innovation Hub on Project Nexus, a multilateral solution to link countries’ real-time payment systems. The central bank believes Project Nexus could be a key enabler towards realizing the vision of a multilateral network of payment linkages across ASEAN.
The second ambition, trusted sustainability data, is pursued through Project Greenprint. Project Greenprint seeks to build a green fintech data ecosystem comprising four digital utilities: an ESG disclosure portal called ESGenome, an ESG registry of green certifications called ESGpedia, a data orchestrator, and a digital marketplace.
ESGenome is currently being piloted with the Singapore Exchange (SGX) to enable listed companies to carry out baseline sustainability reporting against a set of 27 core metrics, MAS said. ESGpedia, which launched in May 2022, uses distributed ledger technology (DLT) to record and maintain the provenance of green certifications issued by various sectoral bodies.
On data orchestration, which involves aggregating ESG data from multiple data sources to meet specific green and transition financing needs, MAS said it is doing small-scale pilots to identify financing gaps and technology solutions for decarbonisation in priority sectors such as energy, real estate, agriculture, and transportation. The central bank will also be partnering with financial institutions to integrate more advanced datasets into their financing frameworks.
Finally, the Digital Marketplace, which seeks to facilitate linkages between ESG fintech solution providers and investors, financial institutions, and corporates, is scheduled to launch next year.
Testing out a purpose-bound digital SGD
The third ambition, programmable money, has taken the form of Project Orchid. MAS released on October 31, a report detailing potential uses of a purpose-bound digital Singapore dollar (SGD) and the supporting infrastructure required, marking the successful completion of Phase 1 of Project Orchid. A purpose-bound money (PBM) enables senders to specify conditions, such as validity period and types of shops, when making transfers in digital SGD.
Trials have been initiated to test the concept. During SFF 2022, Government Vouchers and Commercial Vouchers were distributed to selected individuals to use at participating food and beverage outlets and merchants.
OCBC and the Central Provident Fund Board (CPFB), meanwhile, will test the use of PBM for funds disbursement from government agencies, and United Overseas Bank (UOB) and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) will trial PBM to enhance the current SSG Credit disbursement process, enabling SkillsFuture grants to automatically be released to participating training providers when eligibility conditions are met.
While MAS said the case for a retail CBDC in Singapore is not compelling for now, the central bank will continue to actively explore good use cases for digital currencies, focusing in particular on improving the user experience, strengthening security and privacy, and increasing accessibility to broader segments of the population.
MAS introduces Project Ubin+
The third ambition, atomic settlement or real-time settlement, aims for the simultaneous exchange of two linked assets in real-time. MAS has been experimenting with the concept since 2016 through Project Ubin.
This project is now evolving into Project Ubin+ and will seek to collaborate with international counterparts on the cross-border exchange and settlement of foreign currency transactions using wholesale central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), MAS said.
The project will focus on studying business models and governance structures, developing standards using DLT and non-DLT based platforms, and establishing policy guidelines for the connectivity of digital currency infrastructure across borders. Partners currently involve include the central banks of France and Switzerland and the BIS Innovation Hub, as well as SWIFT.
New industry pilots launched under asset tokenisation initiative Project Guardian
MAS’ Project Guardian, an initiative focusing on exploring the potential of decentralised finance (DeFi), completed its first pilot and live trades, effectively demonstrating the potential of tokenisation for reducing costs in executing trades.
Under the pilot, DBS Bank, JP Morgan and SBI Digital Asset Holdings conducted foreign exchange and government bond transactions against liquidity pools comprising of tokenised Singapore Government Securities Bonds, Japanese Government Bonds, Japanese Yen (JPY) and Singapore Dollar (SGD).
A live cross-currency transaction involving tokenised JPY and SGD deposits was successfully conducted.
Following the completion of this pilot, MAS launched two new industry pilots: the first pilot, led by Standard Chartered Bank, will focus on issuing tokens linked to trade finance, while the second pilot, by HSBC and UOB, will involve tokenising wealth management products.
Announced in May 2022, Project Guardian aims to lay the structures and protocols for tokenised assets and DeFi, one of MAS’ five key areas of focus in the fintech domain.
Singapore and China strengthen cooperation in green finance and capital market linkages
New initiatives were unveiled by MAS on November 1, focusing on expanding cooperation in green finance and deepen capital market linkages with China.
The initiatives are:
- The China-Singapore Green Finance Taskforce, which will focus on deepening bilateral cooperation in green finance and facilitate greater public-private sector exchanges. The taskforce will explore collaboration in areas such as standards and definitions, green and transition financing solutions, data and technology enablers to catalyse green financing flows, and enhancing green investment opportunities in China and the region;
- The Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) Product Link, which will see the SGX and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange (SZSE) working alongside other industry stakeholders to launch new ETFs and develop the capabilities for investors in China and Singapore to access ETF investment opportunities in each other’s markets; and
- The Low Carbon Index Family, which will seek to serve as a benchmark for fund managers to launch new green funds focused on China, ASEAN and other countries in Asia. Developed by the SGX, the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the SZSE, the Low Carbon Index Family is expected to launch by the end of 2022.
MAS announces bilateral partnership with Ghana
On November 04, MAS signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Bank of Ghana (BOG) and Development Bank Ghana (DBG) to develop the Ghana Integrated Financial Ecosystem (GIFE).
A collaborative effort across public entities, financial institutions, fintechs companies and tech solution providers, the GIFE aims to enhance financial capabilities and access for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Ghana and facilitate trade and financial services cooperation between the two countries. Over time, it is envisaged that the integrated financial ecosystem model could potentially serve the Asia-Africa SME trade corridor more broadly.
The digital infrastructure will serve MSMEs in four key areas.
First, the SME Financial Empowerment Programme will help MSMEs build foundational digital financial literacy skills and gain a good understanding of cross-border financial services.
Second, MSMEs in Ghana and Singapore will be able to can expand their international business connections in the two continents through a network of business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce platforms.
Third, DBG and partner financial institutions will provide digital trade finance and guarantees for eligible MSMEs through a digital platform.
And lastly, MAS, BOG, DBG and financial institutions will jointly develop financial trust frameworks to assess credit worthiness for financing, enabling financial institutions to use alternative data sets, such as payment history to suppliers and tax payments.
Winners of the 2022 SFF Global Fintech Awards and Global Fintech Hackcelerator unveiled
Winners of the annual Global Fintech Hackcelerator and Global Fintech Awards were unveiled on November 4. Comprising financial institutions, fintechs and solution providers, the winners were recognised for their innovative solutions that allow for accelerated digitalisation, innovation and sustainability in the financial industry.
The 2022 Global Fintech Hackcelerator, which was themed “Accelerating A Greener Digital Future”, saw FQX, Norbloc and WeavInsights win this year’s competition. FQX, from Switzerland, offers a infrastructure that provides on-chain settlement of tokenised debt securities; Norbloc, from Sweden, provides a digital onboarding platform that covers the whole know-your-customer (KYC) lifespan; and WeavAir, from Singapore, combines AI analysis with new data sources like satellite imagery to gather accurate and real-time ESG data.
In the Singapore Fintech (Singapore Founder) category, Metaverse Green Exchange was awarded the first place, followed by Validus, and AsiaVerify. In the ASEAN Fintech category, FlexM took the first place, followed by Know Your Customer and Mambu. In the Singapore Financial Institution category, BondEvalue was awarded the first position, followed by Standards Chartered Bank, and ICBC Singapore. In the Global category, Mastercard, Valocity Global and Stemly took the first, second and third place, respectively.
The 2022 SFF Global Fintech Awards also recognised the year’s most forward-thinking and innovative fintech leaders. Andrew Gazal and Shi Alice Chen of ESGTech, El Lee of Digital Treasures Center, Kelly-Ann McHugh of MyComplianceOffice, Manish Bhai of UNObank, Natalia Mykhaylova of WeavInsight, Nick Wilde of Thought Machine, Rajaram Kannan of BondEvalue, Sanjay Uppal of Finbots AI Solutions, and Seong Ouk Choi of Sentbe, were named 2022’s Top Ten Fintech Leaders.
In ASEAN Fintech Leaders, Cristina Amor Maclang of GeiserMaclang, David Chen of Atome Financial, Eddy (Kok Hoe) Wong of VSure Group, Salim Dhanani of BigPay, and Sohini Rajola of Western Union, were recognised as the category’s winners.
In the corporate category, Mastercard, SC Ventures by Standard Chartered and Singlife with Aviva were named the Fintech Employers of the Year, while Atome Financial, Thunes and YouTrip were named the winners in the Partners of Fintech category. BondEvalue, Chainalysis and Chintai Network Services, meanwhile, took home the Knowledge Enterprise award.